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Tea With David Bowie

June 19, 2021
by the gentle author

I am delighted to publish this memoir by Cherry Gilchrist who is an an alumnus of my HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ course. Follow Cherry’s Cache for more of her stories.

There are still a few places left on my last course on the weekend of 20th & 21st November. Click here for more details

Spend a weekend with me in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Fournier St, enjoy delicious lunches, savour freshly baked cakes from historic recipes, discover the secrets of Spitalfields Life and learn how to write your own blog. Email to book.


Cherry in 1965


“It was 1965, and my schoolfriend Helen and I, aged sixteen, were spending a weekend in London. This was something we had to beg and plan for, getting our parents on side and making all sorts of promises as to what we would not do in regard to men, drink, and sleazy music clubs.

Our mothers only consented to this dangerous undertaking provided we stayed at the respectable YWCA girls’ hostel in Marylebone. Little did they know that even there we would have to fend off the amorous advances of African students who were keen to get to know English girls – they were staying the equivalent men’s hostel down the road. We made sure we kept our interaction to playing table tennis and talking urgently about the Queen when things threatened to get out of hand. Actually, we had our sights set on visiting Carnaby St and Soho anyway, and were not keen to get entangled on the wrong side of Oxford St.

Recently, Helen and I compared notes on our shared adventures during our teenage years. We revived our memories of that lively weekend. What did we actually get up to in Soho? I thought my diaries might help.

I still have all the schoolgirl diaries that I wrote which cover nearly every year from eleven to eighteen. I keep planning to destroy them because they are so cringe-making, but somehow it does not happen. I read out less-embarrassing-but-still-amusing parts if we have a schoolfriends’ reunion. And they are invaluable for reconstructing what I did and when. Even now they provide me with insights which change my perspective on past events. So I thumbed through 1965, looking for the right entry. And there it was – what two schoolgirls from Birmingham got up to in the heady streets of Soho, in Swinging London.

‘Went to Carnaby St but didn’t see anyone interesting. All the boys walking up and down were trying to look famous. The shops were displaying horrible floral ties and swimming trunks. Ugh. Walked to Denmark St (known as ‘Tin Pan Alley’ and the heart of the record industry) …where we met two boys from a supposedly up and coming group called Davy Jones and the Lower Third. One was called Teacup. Bought them cups of tea as they were impoverished. Went back to Carnaby St after lunch and looked in disgust at more floral ties.’

The next day we returned to Soho. It was not that we did not have anything else to do. In fact, we had enjoyed a rather too exciting night. We had neglected to tell our mothers that the YWCA could not have us for the middle night of our visit, and that we had fixed to stay in a flat near Dulwich normally occupied by Diz Disley, a well-known folk and jazz musician. I was deeply into folk music at the time. He had invited us to crash there while he was away. It was a large house with many comings and goings. More specifically, there were some unexpected arrivals in our bedroom during the night, which meant fending off more unwelcome advances. But these particular adventures take up two A4 pages of my diary and I will save them for another time.

Next day, we wandered into Trafalgar Sq where ‘We asked two American beats if they would like to climb up the lions to have their photo taken but they said they did not do that any more. One of them took the camera, pointed it at our stomachs and took a photograph. Then we went to Denmark St again. No sign of the elusive Davy Jones or any of the Lower Third. Had lunch in the café there, two boys called ‘The Ants’ sat at our table. They were quite sweet. One was good-looking and they were chuffed ‘cos they’d made a demo disc.’

So we had met a few young hopefuls, a couple of would-be pop groups. I typed out the account and emailed it off to Helen. She vaguely remembered another of the boys, but he was just one among so many now lost without trace. I agreed, it was doubtful that he had even made a passing wave in recording history. Nevertheless, I thought I would check the ‘elusive’ Davy Jones?

To my astonishment, I found that Davy Jones and the Lower Third had actually released a record shortly afterwards. So they had begun to climb the ladder.

The real surprise was when I read that Davy Jones changed his name to David Bowie. Was he already stepping into the role of the trickster? It is interesting that I had described him as ‘elusive’ in my diary. He was just eighteen and could not have foreseen the meteoric rise to stardom which awaited him.

So this is the story of how I once bought David Bowie a cup of tea in Soho, because he could not afford to pay for his own.”


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10 Responses leave one →
  1. Bill permalink
    June 19, 2021

    What happened to the Lower 3rd?

  2. Wendy permalink
    June 19, 2021

    Well, how fabulous to have that encounter in your memoirs! I am one of billions who would love to have bought Davy Jones a cup of tea. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Eve permalink
    June 19, 2021

    aw.. a lovely story & so nice that you bought the teas for the now legendary rock star

  4. June 19, 2021

    Interesting encounter with a coming superstar. And by chance, too. — My first encounter with DAVID BOWIE, on the other hand, was precisely planned: in 1976 I took the train to Frankfurt to see him perform in the Festhalle. This first tour to the Continent was known as STATION TO STATION.

    Love & Peace

  5. Richard Smith permalink
    June 19, 2021

    I enjoyed reading today’s blog probably because I’m a similar age, I’d have been 13 in 1965. I remember going to Carnaby Street, seeing the floral ties and buying a pair of groovy shoes with large buckles. What with staying in Diz Disley’s flat it seems quite an adventure for the girls. Is it me but does it seem a happier and simpler time or are my rose tinted spectacles distorting my vision. Love and Peace. Thank you GA.

  6. Kelly Holman permalink
    June 19, 2021


  7. June 19, 2021

    Wow, I’m so jealous. What a fantastic story.

  8. June 19, 2021

    This is such a great story. I was the same age a decade or so later and the universal preoccupations of teenage girls (boys/clothes/music/boys/subverting parents/boys) really struck a chord! Look forward to reading more of the blog.

  9. paul loften permalink
    June 19, 2021

    Thank you for Cherry’s memoir. The folk scene in the 60’s ! It was an adventure that belies the description of Folk. there were so many great places and events . Bunjies off Charring ross road. the Troubadour in Knightsbridge , Cecil Sharp House and the concerts after the peace demos in the early 60’s that had so many big names some from America. Tom Paxton Louden Wainright Ewan Macoll and Peggy Seeger . I saw Paul Simon perform at the tiny Troubadour once . David Bowie wasn’t part of that it was a bit before his time but Cherry is so lucky to have the memories of meeting him

  10. Mark permalink
    June 19, 2021

    More please.

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